20th Century Fashion

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Couture beginnings
The first designer who was not merely a dressmaker was Charles Frederick Worth (1826–1895). Before the former draper set up his maison couture fashion house in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous people, and high fashion descended from style worn at royal courts. Worth's success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done. The term couturier was in fact first created in order to describe him. It was during this period that many design houses began to hire artists to sketch or paint designs for garments. The images alone could be presented to clients much more cheaply than by producing an actual sample garment in the workroom. If the client liked the design, they ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy. Early twentieth century

Throughout the early 20th century, practically all high fashion originated in Paris, and to a lesser extent London. Fashion magazines from other countries sent editors to the Paris fashion shows. Department stores sent buyers to the Paris shows, where they purchased garments to copy (and openly stole the style lines and trim details of others). Both made-to-measure salons and ready-to-wear departments featured the latest Paris trends, adapted to the stores' assumptions about the lifestyles and pocket books of their targeted customers. Around the start of the twentieth century fashion style magazines began to include photographs and became even more influential than in the past. In cities throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste. Talented illustrators - among them Paul Iribe, Georges Lepape, Erté, and George Barbier - drew exquisite fashion plates for these publications, which covered the most recent developments in fashion and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these magazines was La Gazette du bon ton which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and regularly published until 1925 (with the exception of the war years). 1900s

The outfits worn by the fashionable women of the 'Belle Époque' (as this era was called by the French) were strikingly similar to those worn in the heyday of the fashion pioneer Charles Worth. By the end of the nineteenth century, the horizons of the fashion industry had generally broadened, partly due to the more mobile and independent lifestyle many well-off women were beginning to adopt and the practical clothes they demanded. However, the fashions of the Belle Époque still retained the elaborate, upholstered, hourglass-shaped style of the 1800s. As of yet, no fashionable lady would (or could) dress or undress herself without the assistance of a third party. The constant need for radical change, which is now essential for the survival of fashion within the present system, was still literally unthinkable.

Conspicuous waste and conspicuous consumption defined the fashions of the decade and the outfits of the couturiers of the time were incredibly extravagant, elaborate, ornate, and painstakingly made. The curvaceous S-Bend silhouette dominated fashion up until around 1908. The S-Bend corset was very tightly laced at the waist and so forced the hips back and the drooping mono bosom was thrust forward in a pouter pigeon effect creating an S shape. Toward the end of the decade the fashionable silhouette gradually became somewhat more straight and slim, partly due to Paul Poiret's high-waisted, shorter-skirted Directoire line of clothes. The Maison Redfern was the first fashion house to offer women a tailored suit based directly on its male counterpart and the extremely practical and soberly elegant garment soon became an indispensable part of the wardrobe of any well-dressed woman. Another indispensable...
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